Democratizing Ideologies and Inequality Regimes – Berkman Center Primer

I’m very excited to speak at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society tomorrow.

The talk is open to the public (with RSVP) and streaming online.

I used to post references and slides for my talks but somewhere along the line I either talked too much or posted too little. But, I am synthesizing quite a bit of theory and methods work in this talk. I think a primer post is in order.

Broadly, I am concerned with technocratic ideologies of democratization that don’t just reinscribe inequalities (which a hundred people have pointed out) but that also makes it near impossible to measure inequality. Privatization of data – be it of online users or students – is a challenge for social science and social justice. It is exacerbated by algorithms, terms and conditions, and disparities in bureaucratic access.

That’s the backdrop against which I talk to students that are cobbling together alternative higher education models of disruption as they live at intersecting processes of inequality regimes. This is the counter history of disruption that isn’t about Roaming Autodidacts but rank and file men and women trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents financed at 6.21% and amortized over 15 years.

I will sketch out the framework that guides my methodological choices. I argue that we should reinvigorate inequality regimes as an analytical framework to expand the understanding of organizational contexts to span physical and digital spaces. Higher education contexts are but one example of how this looks conceptually and methodologically.

I also talk about some of the methodological choices that come from that framework: hybrid methods, institutional ethnographies, platform studies and longitudinal analysis are well-suited to these shifting socio-organizational contexts.

Then I will share some preliminary analysis from my current project. That analysis is not included in these slides for many reasons. It’s a work in progress, etc. Also, the standard disclaimers apply: I almost always trash my prepared notes and speak off the cuff so this may or may not reflect what I actually present tomorrow. You’ll also see lots of love for my tweeps/colleagues. I’d like to thank them again: Kieran Healy, Kevin Kinser, Justin Reich and Collettee Sosnowy.

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